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Notes of Hope in the Face of Suffering (Rom 8:18–39)

As I write, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping through the world taking lives and causing pain and fear. Such an event raises the question of hope in the midst of suffering.

Considering these themes takes us especially to Paul, who frequently touches on these themes. One passage that carries this focus on hope in suffering is Romans 8:17­­–39. The purpose of this article is to briefly explain the context in which Romans was written, and work through the passage exploring the way in which Paul summons the Romans to hope despite their suffering.


The Historical Setting

Without question, Paul wrote Romans, through Tertius from the home of Gaius in Corinth sometime between 56 and 58 (Rom 16:22–23; 1 Cor 1:14). Paul had by then gathered a substantial financial collection that he is about to deliver to the Jerusalem Christians (Rom 15:25–31). While the overriding intent of Romans is disputed, a range of purposes can be discerned: to address cultural problems in the Roman church particularly between Jews and Gentiles, to affirm the law-free gospel in the face of Judaising tendencies, to outline Paul’s gospel in preparation for coming to Rome and then to Spain, and to request prayer for his trip to Jerusalem so that he can, at last, come to Rome.

The Literary Setting

Romans 8:18–39 forms the final part of the second half of Romans 1–8, a section that runs from Romans 5 to 8. Schreiner entitles this section, “Hope as a Result of Righteousness by Faith.”[1] In Romans 3:21–4:25, Paul explicates the revelation of the righteousness of God received by faith in Christ Jesus. Hope features in Romans 4:18 as a constitutive aspect of Abraham, the paradigmatic man of faith (Gal 3:9). Despite his situation, Abraham hoped that God would bring to pass his promises. Hope then is a constitutive aspect of authentic saving faith.

Romans 5–8 focuses on the consequences of the justification revealed by God in Christ, including hope. Hope features in the first part of Romans 5 as Paul draws out the consequences of justification by faith. Believers are reconciled to God through Christ, have access to God’s grace, and boast in the hope of the glory of God. They also rejoice in suffering because suffering produces endurance, which in turn, produces character, which generates hope. This hope does not produce shame, whatever one’s situation, because of the power of love has been poured into their hearts by the Spirit.

The themes of suffering and hope dominate this passage. Indeed, while it is hard to demonstrate that Romans 5–8 forms a chiasm, there is more than the hint of an inclusio between Romans 5:1–5 and 8:17–39 seen in the recurrence of the language of hope, suffering, endurance, and love.[2]

The central theme of Romans 8:1–17 is the Spirit. Believers have received the Spirit and, as God’s children and joint-heirs with Christ, are to live by the Spirit and not by the corrupted impulses of the flesh. Verse 17 climaxes the section as Paul tells the Romans that as heirs, they will be glorified with Christ, pointing to their final eschatological state. However, the path to glory is suffering with Christ. Paul implicitly summons them to be prepared to suffer for God as they live in a fallen world hostile to the growing Christian movement.

Social Setting

As we explore this passage, we must consider suffering in Paul’s world. We who live in modern wealthy countries like New Zealand live in a nice bubble of good health, peace, and prosperity with all our basic needs met. When we hit hard times, most of us have access to highly advanced medical help and social welfare. We generally live in unthreatened peace. In 2014, our average life expectancy was 79 (men) to 83 (women).[3] Yet, in Paul’s time, “[t]he life expectancy in the biblical world varied between 30 and 45 years.”[4] It was lower for women for many women died in childbirth, and there was also high infant mortality.[5] Medical assistance was rudimentary and limited to the wealthy.[6] Dwellings were not built to withstand natural disasters such as famines (Acts 11:28), floods (e.g., Liv., 7.3.1), and earthquakes,[7] all of which were frequent. People lived close together with poor hygiene, and so disease spread quickly.[8] Poverty was widespread, especially among the lower echelons of society.[9] Violent force was frequently used to assert power. War and the threat of conflict were part of life. Suffering was etched into the existence of everyone. And of course, Christians experienced persecution from Jews and Gentiles alike, and undoubtedly, the Roman church was no different as would be brutally brought home by Nero within a decade of Romans.[10]

Sussman notes too that epidemics are mentioned throughout the biblical narrative. These include nonspecific pestilence,[11] the plague of the Philistines which may have been bubonic plague (1 Sam 5–6), the death of 185,000 of Sennacherib’s army perhaps by severe bacillary dysentery (2 Kgs 19:35; Isa 37:36), and what could be cholera (Zech 14:12).[12] Also indicative of the threat is Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse where Jesus predicts future plagues (Luke 21:11) as he does in Revelation.[13]

Perhaps a way to understand Paul’s world is to consider a contemporary, impoverished third world environment, in which all but a tiny elite live at a subsistence level. Yet, Paul’s context was probably far worse with nothing like modern medical support (even in poorer countries), and with no aid and development programs run by the UN, Christian agencies, and others. Thus, we are talking about a world in which suffering was intense, continuous, and real. Death was a constant danger. Hope was critical to survival.

Twelve Notes of Hope (Romans 8:18–39)

Having told the Romans that the path to glory is paved with suffering on behalf of Christ (v. 17), through this passage, Paul gives twelve reasons for the Romans to live with hope. Throughout, he uses the third-person plural (we, us), and so draws in all believers. Hence, as a believer myself, I will take the liberty of using the first person plural (we, us) as I draw out these ideas below.[14] These notes of hope speak as loudly today as when first written, especially in times of pain like this. As we consider them, it is essential to remember that this was written by a Christian leader to other Christians. Hence, they are specifically those things that comfort believers rather than platitudes for the general populace (although all are invited to believe in God through his Son). For those of us who read them with faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, they are deeply comforting.

1. The Superiority of Future Glory Over Present Suffering (Rom 8:18)

Using logizomai, a mathematical cognitive term,[15] Paul begins with a general summative statement of his calculated reasoning. He postulates that the present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory to be revealed to us. This speaks of the future eschatological hope of the return of Christ and resurrection of believers (1 Thess 4:13–17), and their full transformation from mortality to immortality, from perishability to imperishability (1 Cor 15:50–54). We see here Paul’s high view of the life to come. Such a future destination sustains us in times like this.

2. The Liberation of the Cosmos From Its Bondage to Decay (8:18–22).

Paul shifts focus from believers to the whole cosmos. In 5:12, Paul tells us that death invaded the creation through the sin of Adam and all humankind (ourselves included).[16] Paul personifies creation (ktisis, four times). The ktisis is portrayed as one enslaved (douleia) to decay (phthora). Then, Paul imagines creation as a woman crying out in the pains of childbirth. Yet, hope is found, as the creation will be set free to experience the glory of the children of God. This pictures nature going through a process akin to the resurrection and new birth of God’s faithful at the consummation. The hope is for the restoration of the conditions of Eden (Gen 1–2), a world free from decay and death. One aspect of this is freedom from disease and pain, as in the case of this epidemic. The Romans in their dangerous world, and we who are facing such challenge as this, are comforted that this glory is experienced.

3. The Complete Bodily Redemption of God’s Children (8:23–25)

In v. 23, Paul focuses again on believers who are children of the creation in travail, but who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit. With creation, we too groan inwardly, waiting with great eagerness for the consummation. At this time, those adopted and Spirit-sealed will experience their full adoption with their bodies of humiliation transformed to be like Jesus’ body of glory (Phil 3:21). Paul then uses the term “hope” five times in rapid succession, reminding us that we are saved into this hope of cosmic and personal redemption, and as this is yet unfulfilled, this hope remains. We await it with patience (cf. Gal 5:5). Such yearning is palpable in a time like this.

4. The Present Help and Intercession of the Spirit (8:26–27)

Paul has hinted at the role of the Spirit in hope in 5:5–6 with hope linked to God’s love poured into our hearts through the Spirit. The Spirit has dominated 8:1–17. Paul has just reminded us that we have received the first-fruits of God’s Spirit in v. 23, where: “[t]he gift of the Spirit is seen as the first installment and guarantee of the eschatological redemption, i.e., the resurrection.”[17] If v. 23 links the Spirit to future hope, in these verses, Paul highlights their role in sustaining hope in the present.

The Spirit helps (synantilambanō) us in our weakness (astheneia). Astheneia is broad, encompassing all frailties that come upon humankind in its fallen state. Susceptibility to diseases like Covid-19, the consequential economic challenges, and the many anxieties it generates are included in its range. Synantilambanō is used of helping one another in domestic work (Luke 10:40) or of delegated leaders sharing their leaders loads (Exod 18:22; Num 11:17, LXX). Here, the Spirit helps and supports us at our points of weakness. S/He[18] does so as we pray, interceding for us with wordless (alalētos) groans. This is not the gift of tongues (which is not wordless), although, in my experience, that too is comforting. Rather, it speaks of the Spirit yearning through us to God the Father when we simply don’t know how to pray. I find this is the case at the moment, as I feel overwhelmed with the pain of the vulnerable being swept away by this pandemic. Yet wonderfully and reassuringly, the Spirit is pictured here as God-facing, reaching out from within us to the Father (who knows the thoughts of the Spirit), so that he can pour out his love and succour into us in our anguish. Through the Spirit, he does so, strengthening us to come through such trials with strengthened characters and hope (5:5). How glorious this would sound to Romans living under Nero in such a perilous world! How good that sounds.

5. God Works All Things Together for His Beloved Elect (8:28)

Paul now switches from the Spirit to the Father. Not only is the Spirit within believers, helping, groaning, and interceding for us, but God is in control of the cosmos. We know that everything in history is working together for good for those who love God and are called to participate in his redemption of the world. This is a big claim by Paul challenged daily by the pain of a world wracked with depravity. Yet, this is consistent with his strong view of the sovereignty of God whereby, even if things appear hopeless, God is moving history toward its ultimate total goodness with evil forever vanquished. The text also reminds us that we are to respond to God’s everlasting love (see below, v. 39) with love—one of the few places where Paul alludes to the greatest commandment (Deut 6:5; Mark 12:30 and parr.). Further, we are called according to his purpose. While we are overwhelmed in such times, we continue to pour forth adoration to God, who is moving history to its zenith, and we work out the purpose we have in the redemption of the cosmos.

6. Predestined, Justified, and Glorified (8:29–30)

Romans 8:29–30 has provoked the penning of myriads of writings concerning their precise meaning, sequence, and relationship. Yet, it is in times like this we realise the power of Paul’s words here. They were not written to cause theological debate, but to comfort believers in the travails of a marred world. We are foreknown, speaking of God’s intimate knowledge of who we are since before the creation of the world. As Paul elsewhere says, we know God, but better, he knows us fully! (1 Cor 13:12; Gal 4:9). Foreknown, “we are also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (ESV). This speaks of God’s predetermined plan that believers will be ever conformed to Jesus, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:16). Elsewhere, Paul links conformity to Christ (cruciformity or Christoformity), to suffering (Phil 2:5–8; 3:10). Through suffering, set before us from before the ages, by the Spirit, we are conformed to be more and more like Jesus. We are then his brothers and sisters, God’s children. Those predestined are called, not meaning merely “invited” as kaleō can mean (e.g., Luke 16:14), but in Pauline thought, called in such a way that we yield to his summons with faith. As called ones with faith in God via his Son, God declares over us, “Gerechtfertigt!”—“Righteous!”[19] As those justified, we are glorified. In the final statement, Paul brings our future state (8:17) into the present to hammer home his point! We may be facing the uncertainties of this broken world, yet we are God’s children whose destiny is glory.

7. God is on the Side of Believers (8:31)

Paul now moves into elevated prose and diatribe,[20] posing seven questions,[21] the first of which is the summative question.[22] Some questions he answers, some he leaves hanging preferring to answer them after another question or leaving the answers implied. Each question represents a possible comeback from an interlocutor and draws out his theology even more reasons to have hope.

The first question asks what should we say to these things, which could be translated: “what can we say in response to the things I have just said (in this section)?” He responds with a first-class conditional (if … then) sentence,[23] true for the sake of argument (and indeed for Paul, true). The protasis (or “if” clause) is “if God is for us.” This causes the reader to ask the question and intuitively respond: “Of course he is!” The apodosis (or “then” clause) then asks, “who is against us?” In vv. 35 and 39, he lists a whole lot of things against believers. The implication here is that “none of them can stand against us!” Such confidence does not deny opposition, but that in an ultimate sense, nothing can stand against us because God, the Power of the cosmos, is for us. We are comforted: God is truly on our side even during Covid!

8. God’s Past Giving of his Son and His Future Giving of the Cosmos (8:32)

The next sentence begins with a powerful description of God the Father who is described as “He who did not spare his Son but gave himself up for us all,” defining God as a giving God, who like Abraham in Gen 22, was prepared to sacrifice his Son for all (believers and potentially all who will respond with faith). The second half of the sentence is a response to the sacrificial giving of God in the form of another question: “how is it that he will not also with him give to us all things?” (my translation). For Paul, God’s preparedness to give up his Son guarantees that he will ultimately give believers, as heirs of all things (cf. 8:17). Our inheritance is linked to Christ, for it is “with him” that believers inherit the world. As such, we are comforted. While the world as it stands is decidedly not ours in real terms, it is owned and controlled by the people of the world; the day is coming when all enmity to God will be swept away. The world will be freed from its suffering (8:21) when suffering, illness, and death will be no more, and in and with Christ, goodness will completely prevail, and all will be in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). For Paul, the giving of Christ comforts us because he is the first-fruits and guarantee of the restored world to come. This we inherit by grace through faith (cf. Eph 2:8).

9. God’s Justification of His Elect (8:33)

The third question inquires as to who can bring a charge against God’s elect people. As is clear in Romans and Galatians in particular, God’s people are those justified by faith throughout her history (case in point, Abraham).[24] Hence, charges could be brought against Christians in a raft of ways. However, God is the ultimate judge. Such a statement seems to suggest that in Rome, Christians were facing a range of accusations. They may have been party to the conflicts amongst Jews that led to Claudius’ edict a few years earlier (Acts 18:2; Suetonius, Claud. 25:4). Perhaps they were charged with atheism or pernicious superstition?[25] They may have been withholding taxes (Rom 13:6–7). Perhaps, as a newer religion emerging from Judaism, they were being blamed for natural disasters (akin to Covid-19). Yet, as it is God who justifies, and as they believe, as he said earlier in 8:1: “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” They are freed of all charges. Again, they and we are comforted.

10. No Condemnation because Christ Died for Believers (8:34a–b)

With the fourth question, Paul reiterates Rom 8:1 cited above. The question is effectively synonymous with the previous. Rather than answer theologically, Paul responds Christologically: Christ Jesus, “the one who died.” Implied here is that he died for the sins of believers (e.g., 1 Cor 15:1; Gal 1:4).

Further, he is the one who did so—the only means of resolving the problem of sin. For believers, then, our condemnation is dealt with. This further highlights their status as those justified by faith who have peace with God despite suffering (5:1–5)! The past death of Jesus dealt with sins and whatever suffering we face; we know that no charges can be brought against us.

11. The Raised and Exalted Christ Intercedes for Believers (8:34c–d)

The second half of v. 34 continues the previous point but develops it to the present. Not only did Jesus die, but “more than that,” he was raised from the dead by God through the Spirit of holiness, and “was declared with power the Son of God” (Rom 1:4). Now Jesus Christ our Lord, he is seated at the right hand of God, ruling the cosmos, until all God’s enemies are subdued under his feet (including all disease and opponents). More sensationally, he is not passive; he is now interceding for us. The compound entynchanō used here and earlier of the Spirit in 8:26 is used of an appeal to a ruler,[26] and in prayer (Rom 11:2; Wis 8:21; 16:28). Here, Jesus appeals to God the Father on behalf of God’s people (Heb 7:25). This is Jesus, the incarnate Man, and yet also Christ, Lord and God the Son, Father-facing and pleading for his people. How comforting that two persons of the Godhead are right now praying to the Father for us! Surely, then, we can get through anything!

12. Nothing Can Separate Believers from the Love of Christ (8:35–39)

The final verses are chiastic, framed with twin statements of Christ’s love for his people. It climaxes Paul’s exhortation of hope despite genuine suffering. For Paul, love is the head virtue, and God is the source of love. God’s love is supremely demonstrated in his giving of his Son to die for sinners (Rom 5:8).

Perhaps personifying events or seeing behind them inimical spiritual or human oppressors and opponents, Paul’s fifth question asks who will separate believers from Christ’s love. He names seven potential threats, brought on by people, natural events that frequent a world subjected to futility, or a combination of both. These are representative of the regular suffering ancients endured in a pre-modern world along with the specific problem of Christian persecution (and such things go on). These would include contagious diseases that run rampant killing without mercy. Yet, none of this can separate believers from Christ’s love.

Verse 36 cites Ps 44:22 (v. 43:23 LXX). The verse falls in a declaration of innocence in the lament portion in a national lament reflecting on Israel’s defeat in battle.[27] It speaks of a time of persecution and suffering as if they are sheep ready for slaughter. Paul appropriates the Psalm to describe the experience of early Christians at this time, persecuted and seemingly defeated as they are by Jew and Roman alike.

Yet, in v. 37, Christians, despite these enemies who inflict apparent defeat, prevailed completely.[28] However, this is only experienced “through him who loved us,” which in contexts is God in and through Christ. The triumph here speaks of spiritual victory despite suffering and ultimately, and complete victory when all God’s enemies are subdued under Christ’s feet.

Verses 38–39 names ten realities, four in couplets, none of which have any ability to separate believers from God’s love experienced in Christ Jesus our Lord. Such things would include potential death through this virus and the power of sickness. Indeed, nothing in all creation has the capacity to separate believers from God’s love experienced in Christ. The umbilical spiritual bond of God and his people can never be severed.


As believers face the challenges of this present time. These twelve aspects of hope speak as gloriously as they did when first written. Each is worth reflecting on as we lament. I encourage you to consider each statement and find hope anew in God.

Our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that awaits us.

The cosmos will be liberated from its bondage to decay.

We too will experience the fullness of bodily redemption as God’s children.

Right now, the Spirit is in us to help us and is interceding for us.

All things work together for good for us as God’s people.

We are predestined to be more and more like Jesus; we are justified and glorified.

God is for us!

God has given his Son for us and will ultimately give us all things.

God declares righteous his elect.

There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus for Christ died for us.

Jesus is raised and exalted and is praying for us.

We are loved, and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Rev Dr Mark J. Keown is the Senior Lecturer in New Testament at Laidlaw College. Some of his writings include Congregational Evangelism in Philippians (Paternoster, 2008), What’s God Up to on Planet Earth? (Wipf & Stock, 2010), Philippians, EEC (Lexham, 2017), Jesus in a World of Colliding Empires (based on Mark’s Gospel, Wipf & Stock, 2018), Discovering the New Testament (Lexham, Vol. 1, 2018 and Vols 2–3 forthcoming), The New Testament A Taster (Morphe, 2020), and Galatians (Morphe, 2020). He is an avid cyclist. He is married to Rev Dr Emma Keown, minister of Glenfield Presbyterian Church in Auckland.

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Vol. 6. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 245.

[2] Elpis, “hope” (5:2, 4, 5; 8:20, 24–25), suffering language (5:3 [thlipsis 2x]; 8:17 [sympaschō], 18 [pathēma], 35 [thlipsis, stenochōria, diōgmos]), hypomonē, “endurance” (5:4; 8:25), and agapē, “love” (Rom 5:5, 8; 8:35, 39). A “chiasm” is “[a] literary device in which words, clauses or themes are laid out and then repeated but in inverted order. This creates an a-b-b-a pattern, or a ‘crossing’ effect like the letter ‘x’ (χιασμός, ‘a making of the letter χ’).” It is also called inverted parallelism (e.g., Romans 10:9–10). An “inclusio” is “[a] literary framing device in which the same word or phrase stands at the beginning and the end of a section. Sometimes called bracketing.” See Matthew S. DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 29, 71.

[3] See “Life Expectancy,” Stats NZ, This has risen from 67 (men) and 71 (women) in 1950–52.

[4] Thomas Grafton, “Disease,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), no page, Logos edition.

[5] Carol Meyers, “Women’s Religious Life in Ancient Israel,” in Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom, Jacqueline E. Lapsley, and Sharon H. Ringe, Revised and Updated (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 356: “A woman’s life expectancy was up to ten years less than a man’s because of childbearing risks, and fewer than half of all infants lived to the age of five, an estimate that does not take into account the possibility that an outbreak of disease might claim more.”

[6] See Thomas Grafton, “Disease,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, no page, Logos edition.

[7] See a description of the earthquake that destroyed Colossae in Larry J. Kreitzer, “Living in the Lycus Valley: Earthquake Imagery in Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians,” in Testimony and Interpretation: Early Christology in Its Judeo-Hellenistic Milieu: Studies in Honor of Petr Pokorný, ed. Mrázek, Jiří, and Jan Roskovec. Testimony and Interpretation: Early Christology in Its Judeo-Hellenistic Milieu: Studies in Honor of Petr Pokorný (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 81.

[8] See Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary, Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2007), 54 who notes that ancient Rome had a population density of about 300 people per acre. This is “almost two-and-a-half times higher than modern Calcutta and three times higher than Manhattan Island.”

[9] Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966) 284 suggests that at any one time, up to 10 percent of the population of the Mediterranean world were so poor or sick that their lives were genuinely threatened.

[10] See S. Angus, “Nero,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, ed. James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y. Mullins, and Morris O. Evans (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 2136–37.

[11] See e.g., Exod 5:3; 9:15; 11:1; 12:13; Lev 26:25; Num 14:37.

[12] Max Sussman, “Sickness and Disease,” in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:9. We can also note 2 Sam 24:15 when 70,000 died (see also Gen 12:17; Num 11:33; 14:37, 46–50; 25:8, 18; 26:1; 31:16; Josh 22:17; 1 Chron 21:14–22). Threats of plagues are found in the covenantal curses (Lev 26:25; Deut 28:21, cf. Num 14:12; 32:24; 1 Kgs 8:37; 2 Chron 6:28; 7:13) and the writings of the prophets (Jer 14:12; 15:2; Ezek 5:12; 6:11; Amos 4:10; Hab 3:5).

[13] See Rev 6:8; 9:18–20; 11:6; 15:1–8; 16:9, 21; 18:4, 8; 21:9; 22:18.

[14] As Paul was writing to the capital of the enormous Roman Empire, it is certain Paul knew that his letter would have a much wider readership. That it did is supported by 2 Pet 3:14 which, if tradition is to be trusted, was written from Rome as Peter faced death. Here, some of Paul’s letters have the status of Scripture.

[15] H.-W. Bartsch, “λογίζομαι,” EDNT 2:354.

[16] Traditionally, this speaks of original sin. However, eph hō carries the nuance “because” balancing out the effect of Adam’s sin with humankind’s corporate culpability (cf. Rom 3:23). See Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2nd edn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018), 350–56.

[17] Moisés Silva (ed), New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014) 1:347.

[18] I have used the awkward S/He to ensure that the Spirit is personified but recognising that to assign the masculine to the Spirit is flawed.

[19] Gerechtfertigt was a favorite term of Luther meaning “Justified! Righteous!”

[20] See James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Vol. 38A. Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1988), 497–99. Diatribe was an approach to teaching used by Greek philosphers which utilised dialogue with an imaginary dialogue partner of opponent posing question with answers (as here in Romans 8). This leads readers to the truth through censure and persuasion. See Duane F. Watson, “Diatribe,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 213.

[21] The number of questions is disputed. Seven are seen as questions in NA28. Verse 33b may be a question (Is God the one who justifies?); however, a statement answering the previous is more likely. Similarly, v. 34b–e could be one long sentence (or parts of it could form a question): “Is Christ Jesus the one who died, more than that … interceding for us.” Again, a statement answering v. 34a and leading into v. 35 seems appropriate.

[22] Moo, Romans, 560. Perhaps correctly, he sees “these things” as the whole of Romans 5–8. However, what Paul has just said in 8:18–30 and perhaps 8:1–17 as well is at the forefront of “these things.”

[23] Conditional “if … then” sentences are common in the NT and come if different forms (or classes). A first-class condition like this assumes truth for the sake of argument. See further DeMoss, Pocket Dictionary, 34, 56 (see on the other conditions pp. 58, 111, 122.

[24] See esp. Rom 3:28; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:24.

[25] Alexander J. M. Wedderburn, A History of the First Christians (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 130 notes that Christians were labelled “atheists” because “their faith could be construed as treasonable if it meant refusing to participate in the imperial cult.” See Tacitus, Ann. 15.44 where Christianity is described as extitiabilis superstitio, “pernicious superstition.”

[26] E.g., Acts 25:24; 1 Macc 11:25; 2 Macc 4:36; 3 Macc 6:37.

[27] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50. Vol. 19. Word Biblical Commentary, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004), 331–32. See his discussion for possible contexts.

[28] BDAG 1034.